Jim Webb: The Perfect Independent Candidate?
On October 20, shortly after the Democratic presidential debate, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) decided to withdraw from the 2016 Democratic primary. If your first thought is bewilderment over who Jim Webb is, it only highlights how the media has overlooked this presidential candidate.
Jim Webb is acutely aware of the current percentage of independent voters to Democrats and Republicans, and not only in the interests of a possible run as an independent candidate. He knows that it is the independent voter bloc that keeps democracy alive in the U.S. presidential elections.
Webb says, “Some people say I am a Republican who became a Democrat, but that I often sound like a Republican in a room full of Democrats or a Democrat in a room full of Republicans. [...] More people is this country call themselves political independents than either Republican or Democrat. I happen to agree with them.”
Who Is Jim Webb?
Jim Webb graduated in Annapolis, Maryland, from the United States Naval Academy, in 1968. Webb went on tour in Vietnam, and eventually left the Navy on medical retirement after being injured. Webb returned to university, earning a juris doctor at the Georgetown University Law School.
Under the Reagan administration, Webb served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs from 1984 to 1987, as a Republican. In 1987, he became Secretary of the Navy until February 1988. In 2006, Webb ran for U.S. Senate in Virginia, as a Democrat, and won. He served as senator until 2012, when he decided not to seek re-election.
Looking at his record, Jim Webb’s main strength is in foreign policy. Due to his military service in Vietnam, Webb was active in endorsing legislation that would benefit military families in particular, especially in education.
Webb was also critical of the Iraq War, saying that it was not an effective response to international terrorism. As a U.S. senator, Webb traveled to Southeast Asia in 2009, stopping in Burma, Vietnam, and 3 other nations in the region. He also served on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and was chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Where Does Jim Webb Stand On The Issues?
Foreign policy is arguably where Webb is most knowledgeable. First, Webb advocates strategic preemptive defense, not just on the military level. “Superiority” in systems such as technology, cyber warfare, and nuclear weapons is, he believes, already a defense system in itself.
Related to this, Webb supports the maintenance of close bonds with allies in the Middle East and Asia. These alliances should be strengthened, since they also constitute a defense system.
Lastly, Webb supports military intervention in the fight against international terrorism, but at no point should there be occupation of territory. The nature of international terrorism, he believes, is such that holding down territory only limits the military.
On domestic issues, Webb does “not have a problem” with Obamacare and some educational concessions being given to illegal immigrants. Webb also supports a “pathway to citizenship” for immigrants who have already settled into the U.S. Webb is also a strong supporter of gun ownership, and insists that it is an important self-defense right.
On the domestic economy, Webb is critical of the wage disparity between CEOs and their average workers. For Webb, economic growth is seen in the increase of wages and standards of living of the average working class, not in the stock strength of different corporations. Webb also believes companies should limit or do away with offshoring and supports giving the jobs to the domestic economy instead.
Jim Webb's consistency on the issues is significant. As early as his first senatorial run in 2006, Webb wrote an op-ed on wage inequality in the U.S., criticizing the gap between the elites and average workers. In addition, his stance on the use of the military without territorial occupation has been clear since an op-ed authored in 1990, in response to Operation Desert Shield.
What Would An Independent Run Mean?
Jim Webb’s advantage, if he were to run as an independent candidate, is in his former tenure as a U.S. senator from Virginia. Virginia is an important swing state, since 50% of its residents were born out-of-state, 11% out of the country.
Webb’s position on social benefits for illegal immigrants and his support of a path to citizenship may win him the diverse state. Webb’s strong stance on national defense may also boost his support in the light-blue states of Michigan and Pennsylvania, where the older population is outrunning the younger.
On the political spectrum, Webb is right of the Democrats and just slightly left of the Republicans. If he runs as an independent candidate, he may draw in voters who are, as he is, tired of the party wars and are looking for a presidential candidate who is consistent on his political positions, and clear on his nonpartisan platform.